Cargo Cult Science

Some remarks on science, pseudoscience and learning how not to fool yourself. Caltech’s commencement address in 1974 from Richard P Feynman (PDF).

Now in what branches of ‘science’ might this approach be applicable nowadays? One specific example springs to mind but, really, the answer is ‘all of them’.

Update: And in the spirit of Feynman (or should I say the bloody obvious), the Institute of Physics has come out of the closet.

These are the traits of groupthink (Janis, 1977). Where do we see them?

1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Incidentally, a ‘flat-earther’ is he or she who did not question the general consensus.

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